I have a special fondness for Katie and I hope she won’t mind me sharing why.
Like other local entrepreneurs, I found Katie on Instagram. I loved her work and especially the way she shared so much of her process — the good and the bad. Her frankness was refreshing, and her unwavering support of other local artists a joy to witness.
But Katie stood out to me the day she wrote a post about the death of her father. It was raw, heartfelt and deeply personal, and my heart went out to her. I had gone through something very similar after my own father died, and suddenly I found myself writing to her. We shared a few very personal messages about our experiences (a first for me), and it felt good to open up — even if it was with someone that I hadn’t met. Katie didn’t tell me to mind my own business. She was kind and sympathetic, open and supportive, vulnerable and strong.
Since then, we have met a few times, and I am thrilled to say her work has gone from strength to strength. We still have our wobbles about our loss, and though we don’t necessarily share them all, the truth is we don’t need to. It was liberating to connect with a stranger, even if it was initially through grief, but being able to do so without judgement meant a lot to me.
So I am glad I have a chance to feature Katie on the blog. She is not just a talented artist, but a genuine kind soul, and no doubt made her father very, very proud.
Come meet her.
Katie Iacovou Ceramics
Tell us a bit about Katie Iacovou ceramics. How did it get started?
I am a Londoner and a mother to two children. I completed my degree in ceramics about 20 years ago and I studied at Falmouth College of Arts in Cornwall. I fell in love with Cornwall and everything it had to offer which is why I frequently visit, as it holds a very special place in my heart. So, I’d say this is where it truly began and where I fell in love with clay.
After graduating I returned to London and joined a ceramic studio in the London bridge area, whilst working full time at The National Gallery. A year later it was announced that the landlord who owned the studio was selling up and we were all being chucked out. It was around the time they were regenerating the area and the Mayor’s city Hall building was being built. So, that was that!
At the time I was still living with my parents because when you graduate you go back home right? Where you are fed, watered and your parents pay the bills! I continued to work full time for the next 15 years and slowly built a career working for some fantastic packaging design agencies.
During this time, I did finally move out of the family home. I met my husband, we got married and eventually had two children. After having my second child I was due to go back to work but the recession had hit and I was made redundant, so I got myself a temp job for the next 10 months. But family life was complicated with two kids, a crazy nursery run, commuting and running a household. Once my contract ended, I decided it was easier for the family if I took a few years off work and become a full-time mum. I did this for a few years and enjoyed being a full-time mum but when both kids were in school, I had to think about returning back to work.
The thought of doing the London commute and working in an office again didn’t feel me with joy, so I decided now was the time to set up my pottery studio and make use of my degree. I had all of the equipment stored at my parents’ house (including a kiln). So, in September 2017 I finally got everything moved to my house and set up my pottery studio in the back garden.
After a 17-year pottery break it was finally ‘me’ time! It felt so good to be playing with clay again and I vowed to myself that pottery will always be a part of my life until the day I leave this planet.
What do you love most about the business?
Not having to commute!
Once I’ve dropped the kids off to school, I go back home and tidy the messy breakfast table, maybe do a little admin and then make myself a cup of tea and wonder down to the bottom of the garden, where my studio is. It’s my happy place and I love it. I really enjoy managing my own day and time, although I am always clock watching as I mustn’t forget the school run.
Working from home works around family life for me. I love working in my little studio, it’s so peaceful in the garden that you sometimes forget you are living in the big city. In the morning I can hear the woodpecker and all the birds tweeting away, it’s beautiful and it’s a nice way to start the day. Not so much fun in the winter month’s when the studio is freezing, and nothing is tweeting. Sometimes I listen to a podcast whilst I’m working, other times I have music on, or I work in silence and just listen to life going on around me.
Once I’m in the making zone I forget about all the other jobs I need to do and concentrate on what my hands are doing at the time. I get totally get lost in what I’m making it has become my meditation.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned since starting?
Sometimes progress seems slow, but you just need to keep working towards your dream.
Everyone has bad days and I certainly do. I am my worst critic and I probably focus too much on the things I haven’t achieved or executed yet. It’s important to remind ourselves to look back at what we have achieved. I believe in manifesting what you want out of life but equally you need to work hard at it and hope the universe is listening. If we all look back to where we were a year ago, I bet we have all moved on.
I’ve learnt it’s hard work running your own business, it’s certainly not an easy ride but if you love what you do then that drives you.
Also working on your own is a very solitude thing to do so I try to network and meet other creatives or likeminded people. It’s important to make an effort to get out of the house, as I spend a lot of time there.
What would you have done differently?
Nothing really. Everything that I did before got me here.
Working within design agencies gave me access to a great creative environment, enabling me sometimes to be part of the design process too. I wouldn’t change anything because it fulfilled a purpose.
The work also enabled me to pay for some big life events like my wedding and buying a property. I also learnt many skills along the way and met some lovely people who I am still friends with.
I think timing is important and now it’s my time to focus on what I truly love and what I am passionate about — ceramics. Of course, I couldn’t have done this without my parents who have always supported me in my choices and my husband.
Has motherhood changed you as an entrepreneur?
Working from home suits both my family life and my creative one. Plus, I get much more saving 2 hours of travel time every day.
It’s true that once both kids were at school my natural thought was to go back to work, but the thought of commuting and sitting by a desk every day didn’t excite me and I was worried it would make me more stressed trying to juggle it all.
Now I love my little studio and I’m in there every day and sometimes on the weekends too. Maybe that’s the downside to having your studio in your garden but when you truly love what you do, it really doesn’t feel like work.
The kids are also watching me go through my own creative journey and they are so supportive, coming to my events/shows. It’s great to show them that you can follow your dream at any age.
Best advice you were given?
To keep your goal in mind and everyday take some steps towards it, no matter how small. Some days will be better than others and some days you may take 2 steps forward and 5 steps back but keep moving forward.
Keep focused on that goal or dream. Hold onto that dream tightly and don’t let it go.
How do you switch off?
I do find it very hard to switch off because life is super busy as a parent and there are never enough hours in the day. I try and take time out to enjoy a cuppa or my lunch, instead of shoving it down quickly, but I’m still working on that.
Self-care is something I am continuing to learn. To switch off completely would be to go away to my happy place, which is Cornwall, but to be honest anywhere by the sea is my meditation, even having a stroll down Southbank by the River Thames works for me!
Saying that I also love going to all the art galleries and ceramic shows in London, and I try to read when I can, though it takes for me ages to finish a book.
I use my phone a lot for my business, but I also need to learn to put it away at times. I love taking pictures when I’m out and about but that means using my phone, so it’s tricky and I need to work on that!
I’ have been busy working towards Artists’ Open House for the Open House Dulwich Festival on 11/12th May & 18/19th May. I am part of the ‘Walters Way Art Collective’ and I’ll be showing my work with 6 other artists on both weekends. We are based in the Honor Oak area (see page 88 for more details in the Open House booklet).
Plus, I am really excited to be exhibiting with Laura Hepworth in the summer at the Jeannie Avent Gallery in East Dulwich. This is an exciting collaboration with Laura who is a local conceptual artist. Laura and I have a shared love of Cornwall and our exhibition — ‘Land Over Sea’ — will be showing work that is inspired by the beautiful Cornish coastline. It’s on from 31st July — 14th August.
Favourite things to do/places to go in South East London?
I love having a browse down Lordship Lane and it has great selection of shops and places to eat. We are also lucky to have so many wonderful parks in our area. I enjoy going to Peckham Rye, Dulwich park and Greenwich is one of my favourite places plus The Horniman has been my saviour and the kids love going there!
We are totally spoilt for coffee shops in the area, but I am a real foodie and we are lucky to have so many great restaurants nearby. I love spicy food so I would choose Ganapati in Peckham and Begging Bowl. For burgers it has to be Honest Burgers and I’m on the hunt for the best roast dinner in south-east London, so the Coal Rooms is next on my list!
I also went to Kudu for the first-time last night and the food was amazing, it was really busy and it had a nice atmosphere. I totally recommend it.